Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Sunsets in city and country

I live in a city and as we are surrounded by houses, we don't often manage to see lovely sunsets.  However, I did capture this one, although I had to crop it to remove the houses and telegraph wires.
 I thought the cloud formation looked wonderful touched with the fiery reds and oranges.
My mum, on the other hand, lives at the edge of a village and overlooks fields.
 Now that's a sunset!
 Although I love living in a city for convenience, I do feel a bit envious that I can't see the full glory of an amazing sunset like this one last Sunday.
It does make me appreciate them more when I do see them, though.

Saturday, 22 November 2014

Sewing Lessons 5 and 6

I have finished my second 'Kate' dress and here it is!  My fifth sewing lesson was a bit of a "dis-arrrr-ster" as things kept going wrong, such as catching the material when I was setting in the sleeves and having to undo it several times.  Then, when I was overlocking the seams, it caught again!  I decided to move on to my A line denim skirt and got that cut out, the darts sewn in, the side seams joined and my first ever zip sewn in too.  I unpicked and re-sewed the offending wrong bits of the dress over the following week and finished it.
 Here's the back view.  I love this material as it is so happy and cheerful.  I bought it back in April and posted about it here.  I think it may be called Retro Flowers (which makes sense). I haven't worn this to work yet, but perhaps will do so this week, depending how cold it is as the material is only a cotton.  I am currently working on 'Kate' number three, using the other material bought at the vintage fair.
 Here is my finally completed A line denim skirt which I bought the material for way back in April.  However, I gave myself "until Autumn" to get it done, so I am really pleased!  It is very comfortable and having my tutor, Sue, help me through it, meant I was able to get the fit right.
 My first proper zip!
Another view of the zip.  As you can tell, I am really pleased with my improving sewing skills and my next project, apart from three or four more 'Kate' dresses(!), is to make a nice padded sewing machine cover for my machine which has only got a plastic cover at the moment and deserves something better! I shall be raiding my material stash to see what I can make use of - it'll be fun!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Polymer Clay Days

I have been enjoying working with polymer clay and introducing more friends to this versatile medium.  Below is Angie's first attempt at pendants and earrings using just black and white clay.  She made spiral canes, flower canes, extruded canes and then did the Sutton Slice (on the teardrop shapes)  I think she may be hooked now!
 My friend Rachael has discovered what she described as 'her thing' - Kawaii creatures - which means 'cute' in Japanese, I think!  She started off making a dragon (and made me one too) and then made a gingerbread man and reindeer.  They are indeed very cute!
The dragon...
 ...the gingerbread man...
...and the (rather nose-heavy) reindeer, who needed a bit of support to stay upright!
She was delighted with these little creations and then tried out a new mould which I had just got the previous day.
 I think it worked beautifully!
So, what have I been making?  Well, I absolutely love using the silk screen kit and have made two pieces into pendants with tassels.
 I call this the 'Frankenstein' pendant because the pattern reminds me of lightning and electricity and I chose gemstones which had the same shine and colours including snowflake obsidian, shell, pearls and quartz.
The other one I made has a range of blue gemstones including pearls, sodalite, blue quartz and labradorite.  I love the blue colour on the labradorite which is at the bottom of the tassel (the correct term is labradorescence!)  Chris suggested using cord to hang them on and I agree, as the plaited beading thread just didn't look quite right.  I wore the blue one at work on Friday and got several compliments, which was really nice.

Wednesday, 12 November 2014

A lovely surprise from Joy!

I took part in a giveaway the other day, over at Joy's blog, Daisy Row, and was delighted to find that I was the lucky winner!  
Here's what greeted me, when I opened the box - what a lot of lovely parcels!  I particularly liked the star wrapping paper that Joy had used.
 There was some material included, which is the background here.
Here's what was in the parcels - star tissue paper and ribbon, crocheted rounds/coasters (which may get used for a project, although I haven't quite decided yet), sewing thread, a notebook (perfect for notes at my sewing lessons), the cutest little penguin bag/purse, or possibly camera case as my camera fits in there, and some white chocolate (which didn't last long, not with two chocoholics in the house!)  A HUGE thank you to Joy for her generosity, which is much appreciated.  Aren't giveaways great...especially if you are lucky enough to win!

Monday, 10 November 2014

A lovely song - Tom Bowling (Robert Tear)

It is the season of remembrance and I thought I would share this rather lovely old song,  Tom Bowling, written on the death of  Charles Dibdin's brother, at sea.  However, I think it would also be a memorial to all those people who fought and died in war.  It is beautifully sung by Robert Tear and sensitively accompanied by Andre Previn.  Have a couple of minutes of peace in a frantic world.
Charles Dibdin (1745 - 1814) (from Wikipedia)

Friday, 7 November 2014

Sewing Lesson 4 - Tunic dress Ta Dah!

 I somehow wasn't sure I could do it, but look, I have made my first tunic dress, using the lovely Kate Pattern from Sew Me Something.  I am absolutely delighted that I have made something which I can wear!  This material was from a vintage fair and I got it at a really good price, so that is an extra bonus.
There are no fastenings with this pattern and so it is generous in size.  I could probably have gone to one size smaller on the top, as the shoulders are quite wide and my sewing teacher, Sue, told me I had narrow shoulders.  We did alter the pattern a bit as we went along.
 Here I am modelling - I don't actually like having my photo taken, hence the 'from the  shoulders down' look!
 The back (I did take it in a bit down the centre back seam).
 A side view, with my new black ankle boots (I bought them on a bit of a whim, decided I had nothing I could wear them with and couldn't find any tunic tops/dresses I liked in the shops, so the idea of making a tunic dress was born).
Demonstrating the pockets -  a pocket is always useful, I find!
Now, I have gone on and on about the dress, so will have to pluck up the courage to actually wear it to work next week.  It is very different from what I usually wear (trousers, t-shirt and cardigan) but I am going to challenge myself.  I have already started the next tunic dress and have three others to make as I have bought and washed the material already.  At my next sewing lesson, I am (at long last) going to start the A line denim skirt!

Tuesday, 4 November 2014

Lavender Shortbread

 I have had some lovely blog swaps this year and you may remember I received a lavender shortbread mix in my 'From My Home to Yours' swap from Emma in Jersey. Chris not so subtly reminded me that I hadn't made the shortbread, so I thought I should get on with it.
However, I was a little nervous as I remembered Norman's lavender meringue (photo from telegraph.co.uk) from this year's Great British Bake Off and I hoped that the lavender flavouring wouldn't be quite so strident as that.  Mary Berry said she hadn't tried lavender meringue before and didn't want to again!  In the dry mix, the lavender wasn't really that evident, but once the butter was added, it showed itself!
 The biscuits were absolutely delicious, with a delicate but definite taste of lavender.
We took some to work and our colleagues agreed how lovely they were.  Many thanks to Emma for sending me the mix as I'm not sure I would have tried it otherwise and I would have been missing a treat!

Thursday, 30 October 2014

Sewing Lesson 3 - Pockets

 Although there isn't that much to see yet, I have started my first tunic dress!  I spent the majority of the lesson last week pinning and cutting out the pattern, which took ages, but I wanted to take my time and cut it as accurately as I could.
I then started sewing the pockets (having discovered that tacking bias binding is a very worthwhile exercise).  Initially, I had some trouble as I had pressed the bias binding so that it wasn't quite equal on both sides, so when I tried to sew it, my stitches just fell off one side of the binding. Once it was tacked, I got on much better.  You can see that I am using the 'rather loud' (Chris' words) material I bought at one of the vintage fairs back in September and I think it will look great.  So, I have some sewing homework to do before my next lesson - shoulder seams, side seams and back seam and then attach the bias binding to the sleeve ends...(Sue, my tutor, said she though we could probably get the tunic dress nearly finished next lesson, with perhaps just the hem to do at home. I'll give it my best shot, anyway!)

Tuesday, 28 October 2014

Colour now and for next year

One of my blueberries, 'Goldtraube' is putting on a wonderful show of colour which I am really enjoying.  It was a dark burgundy red a week or two ago and is gradually changing to this...
 ...fiery bright red...
 ...with yellow and orange. It is fantastic.
 Colour for next year will be provided partly by these lovely Cosmos and californian poppies.  Cosmos has done really well for me over the last few years, so I have ordered more varieties for next year.  The packets at the back of the photo didn't have pictures, so the pictures below are from Mr Fothergill's website.
 Cosmos cosimo red purple white and...
...Cosmos Tetra Versailles mixed.  I hope these new-to-me varieties will do well next year.

Thursday, 23 October 2014

Sewing Lesson 2 or Ellie's got a brand new bag!

With apologies to James Brown (Papa's got a brand new bag), I would like to unveil my new bag! This was the second project in my sewing lesson and I almost completed it in two hours.  (I had to close the turning out hole at home and I think it would benefit from top stitching around the top which will also reinforce the handles).  The fabric was a remnant which Chris had squirrelled away (I think it is a vintage pattern) and which I wanted to use for something special, as I loved it.  As it was a heavier material than just a cotton, it was perfect for this project.
I even made a pocket, with reinforced top corners, in the cheerful red gingham lining.
The lining in all its glory.
It's a pattern I may well return to in the future as it was easy to put together and will be versatile, I think.  Perhaps a bag with longer handles so that it will go over the shoulders might be a future project.  Next week, we are starting on the tunic dress and I am excited about that.
Incidentally, my tutor, Sue, said that I am not a beginner any more - I am an improver now (woohoo!)

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

A great night

 Last Friday, Chris and I enjoyed a lovely evening, beginning with 'Eric and Little Ern'.  It was a very affectionate and joyful portrayal of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise in their personal and professional relationships. The actors both did a terrific job, particularly the actor playing Ernie, as there are fewer noticeable characteristics to be imitated.  The first half was set in hospital, with Ernie recovering from a heart problem and Eric visiting him.  The viewer quickly realises that this is after Eric's death, so is he really there, or is Ernie just imagining him?  The second half takes place in front of the famous curtains and is a joyful recreation of parts of the Morecambe and Wise shows, with various ad libs and audience interaction included.  A family sitting next to us had brought their young children and while I encourage children being taken to appropriate shows, they seemed to find the first half  boring. However, they must have enjoyed the second half, as we didn't hear a peep out of them! A woman sitting behind us was almost in hysterics, which the performers picked up on and included.  Chris was also noticed as he has a very distinctive laugh, and this was also picked up on, much to my amusement.  If you are a fan of Morcambe and Wise and this show is coming near you, do go and see it, as it will leave you feeling very happy.
How to follow that? Well, we arrived home to find a concert with Jeff Lynne and ELO, in Hyde Park, earlier in the summer, being broadcast on BBC4.  The photo above shows the man himself during Mr Blue Sky, off our TV.  For sheer happiness, Mr Blue Sky is hard to beat - follow the link! (I have featured this song before, but I love it, so here it is again!)

Sunday, 19 October 2014

Golden Autumn Blog Swap

I really enjoy taking part in blog swaps now and again and this is one of my favourites.  It is run by Blueberry Heart and this is the third year I have joined in.  I was partnered with Amanda from Crafty in the Med and after emailing a few times and doing some research about likes and dislikes, we started gathering and making.  We swapped parcels last week and goodness me, what a wonderful selection of goodies I unwrapped.
Here they all are, waiting to be unwrapped.
 Here is everything once unwrapped.  I was so lucky as Amanda had been very generous.
Saffron (I know, I need to find some special recipes to use this in), watermelon seeds, hazelnut chocolate and a notebook.
 Some gorgeous crochet including a doily, a crochet bracelet (which is really light and comfortable to wear), a crochet purse containing another surprise and a beautiful crocheted collar.
 The surprise was a lovely ceramic magnet which is at the top of the picture and there was also a beautifully decorated bowl and a brochure about a traditional Spanish costume.
 More things kept appearing - badges, ribbons, charms, buttons, needles and pins.
I loved this badge - very appropriate indeed!  A huge thank you to Amanda, who was an amazing swap partner.
Here's what I sent to Amanda - lots of autumnal coloured bits and pieces, including felt and jewellery (of course). She said she liked orange, so as you can see, that colour featured quite a bit! Her post about my parcel can be found here.
Here are my parcels ready to be wrapped and sent off.  Thanks to Blueberry Heart for organising the swap, thanks to Amanda and here's to the Autumn swap next year!